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Vocation story: Edmundite Father David Cray

As a priest, Father David Cray for years did not live and minister in the New England culture into which he was born and in which he lived before entering the Society of St. Edmund during college.
 
He lived mostly in Canada, Europe and the American South until he came to Vermont to serve as pastor of St. Jude Church in Hinesburg and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Charlotte in 2003.
 
“The benefit of living in more than one culture is you realize there are very few absolutes apart from God,” he said.
 
Born into an Irish Catholic family in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston in 1945, he is the youngest of the three children of John F. Cray, a high school Latin teacher, and Alice M. Kernan Cray, who worked in the Boston Public Library.
 
He smiles when he says that he grew up in a “religious theme park,” because in his immediate neighborhood was the Maryknoll Brothers novitiate, the Daughters of St. Paul motherhouse and novitiate, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent orphanage and the Greek Orthodox Church seminary.
 
Because he lived a distance from his parish and parish school, he attended public school but got to know many of his religious neighbors, skating in the park with Maryknoll Brothers or building a tree house on their property, for example.
 
Sometimes he and his friends would be playing outside when one would suggest going into the Maryknoll chapel to pray the Stations of the Cross. “The religious aspect was part of our lives,” he said.
 
He graduated from Boston Latin School in 1963 and enrolled at St. Michael’s College in Colchester; his family had ties to Bellows Falls, and he liked the idea of studying in Vermont at a Catholic college where he attended daily Mass.
 
He intended to become and English teacher, but during his sophomore year, his plans changed as he prepared for study in Europe during his junior year.
 
In the process of planning with the dean of students, Father Francis Gokey, the Edmundite priest asked him what he intended to do after college. When he replied, “teach,” Father Gokey asked him if he had ever thought of the similarity between teaching and preaching.
 
Young David Cray got the hint.
 
He told his friends what Father Gokey had said, and they agreed he’d make a good priest. “Father Gokey sparked and fostered my vocation,” he said.
David Cray entered the Edmundite novitiate and graduated from St. Michael’s in 1968 then studied theology at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, earning a master of divinity degree in 1971.
 
Burlington Bishop John A. Marshall ordained him to the priesthood in 1972, and his first assignment was as parochial vicar of St. Edmund of Canterbury Parish in Whitton in southwest London, a parish staffed by the Society of St. Edmund.
 
Father Cray lived in Burlington where he served as director of scholastics for the society and later as secretary general, and he lived in Mystic, Conn., where he was the order’s director of novices.
 
He served parishes — some years two at once — in Quebec and was episcopal vicar for the English-speaking region in the Diocese of Saint-Jean–Longueuil where, for two years he was a pastor in Greenfield Park.
 
From Canada he was transferred to Selma, Ala., to serve as programs director of the Society of St. Edmund’s Southern Mission, and from there moved to New Orleans to be president of Bishop Perry Middle School.
 
Now living in Charlotte, Father Cray said through his experiences outside Vermont he learned what it is like to be in a minority. In England he worked with a religious minority — Catholics — and in Quebec he worked with an English-speaking minority in a French-speaking province in an English-speaking country. In Selma and in New Orleans he worked with the African American population, a minority group in the United States. He lived in a Black community and was in the white minority.
 
He became accustomed to living as part of a minority population, and he earned a master of theology degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans with a concentration in Black Pastoral Theology.
 
“I have benefitted tremendously from living in cultures that are not the culture I was brought up in,” Father Cray said. “I lived in cultures that would be foreign to me if I had not lived there and been integrated into them.”
 
Commenting on the racial and religious tensions that grab headlines almost daily, Father Cray said such division creates an atmosphere that legitimizes racism and violence. “Hate breeds hate. Nasty breeds nasty,” he said.
 
“You can change the tone of the conversation in your circle of friends and family,” he suggested. “You don’t have to keep intensifying the atmosphere and feelings of alienation, of division, of hatred.  If you do, it just gets worse.”
 
Emphasizing that all persons are children of God, Father Cray said, “God has given us all one single origin and calls us all to be one single human family.”
 
Living in different cultures has broadened his perspective and enriched his life. “Division and violence come out of not knowing. When you do not know, have no awareness of or acquaintance with people who are completely different from you, you fear them. When you get to know people and appreciate people, you come to love them, and you don’t fear them.”
 
A member of the Society of St. Edmund, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary, Father Cray said he has served in various places and cultures because of his vow of obedience. “It is important to discern God’s will and be obedient to it,” he said.
 
-- Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 
 
 
  • Published in Parish

Don't wait to be perfect to answer vocational call, pope says

Men and women contemplating a vocation to the priesthood, consecrated life or marriage should not be afraid because God wants only for them to experience the joy that comes from serving others, Pope Francis said.
 
"Our slowness and our sloth" should not delay a response and Christians need not be "fearful of our limitations and sins, but instead open our hearts to the voice of the Lord," the pope said in his message for the 2018 World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
 
"It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision," the pope wrote. "Vocation is today! The Christian mission is now!"
 
The papal message for the day of prayer, which will be observed April 22, was released Dec. 4 at the Vatican. The 2018 theme is "Listening, discerning and living the Lord's call."
 
In his message, Pope Francis said God's call "is not as clear-cut as any of those things we can hear, see or touch in our daily experiences" because God "comes silently and discreetly, without imposing on our freedom."
 
Christians, he said, must learn to listen carefully and "view things with the eyes of faith" in order to listen to his voice which is "drowned out by the many worries and concerns that fill our minds and hearts."
 
"We will never discover the special, personal calling that God has in mind for us if we remain enclosed in ourselves, in our usual way of doing things, in the apathy of those who fritter away their lives in their own little world," the pope said.
 
Listening is increasingly difficult in today's society, which is "over stimulated and bombarded by information" and "prevents us from pausing and enjoying the taste of contemplation" and discerning God's plan, he said.
 
Often stifled by "the temptations of ideology and negativity," he said, Christians need spiritual discernment which allows them to "discover the places, the means and situations through which" God's calls them.
 
"Every Christian ought to grow in the ability to 'read within' his or her life and to understand where and to what he or she is being called by the Lord, in order to carry on His mission," Pope Francis said.
 
He also urged men and women to live out their calling once it is discovered and "become a witness of the Lord here and now," whether in marriage or priesthood or consecrated life.
 
"If (God) lets us realize that he is calling us to consecrate ourselves totally to His kingdom, then we should have no fear!" Pope Francis said.
 
"It is beautiful -- and a great grace," he said, "to be completely and forever consecrated to God and the service of our brothers and sisters."
 
  • Published in World

Pre-priesthood professions

Not every priest went from the family home to the seminary to the rectory. Many pursued other careers before answering God’s call to priesthood.
 
Whether they worked in business, in government jobs, in the medical field, as a contractor or a teacher, for them, it was a major change in lifestyle and in work.
 
For example, Father Dallas St. Peter, pastor of St. Mark Church in Burlington, worked as an actuary, but after two years, he realized he “didn’t want to work behind a desk at a computer” but wanted to work more directly with people.
 
But he didn’t enter the seminary just them. He got involved in education first as a teacher’s assistant in public schools then as a teacher at St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski.
 
While he was teaching, he debated about going back to school for a teaching degree or entering the seminary. “I was ready to go back to school,” he said.
 
He chose the seminary because although he enjoyed teaching, he was drawn to the priesthood.
 
Like Father St. Peter, other priests of the Diocese discerned their call to priesthood while working. They include:
 
Father Karl Hahr
Father Karl Hahr worked for his father, the late Edward Hahr, at Hahr Construction as a contractor in New Jersey and in the St. Johnsbury area. They built houses and commercial buildings.
 
He began working in the business when he was 11 and learned about carpentry, putting in sidewalks and working with steel and concrete.
 
By the time he graduated from Lyndon Institute in 1986, he has worked is way up from laborer to skilled laborer and a few years later worked as a carpenter.
 
“I’m a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none,” said Father Hahr, pastor of All Saints Church in Richford and several other area churches. He has experience in plumbing and electrical work and can operate a crane.
 
The construction work helped to foster his vocation to the priesthood. “The crew I mostly worked with were all good Catholics which made for an atmosphere conducive and supportive of living a good Christian life,” he said.
 
He has done some roofing (which he does not like to do), put in a floor at St. Anthony Church in Sheldon and poured a new cement sidewalk at All Saints with the help of a seminarian. He has done renovations at the rectory, including construction of a chapel; sometimes his brothers (who worked with their father too) or parishioners help him. When the parish office needed a large table, Father Hahr built one; when a friend in Boston needed a tabernacle for a convent, he built one and lined it with marble, adding a carving of the Sacred Heart on the front.
 
“There is something about seeing the result that is satisfying,” he said about working with wood.
 
Through his work as a contractor and carpenter, Father Hahr learned patience and perseverance.
 
Carpentry has always been a part of his life, but though it still is, the priesthood is his focus. “I can’t take on something that takes me away from my ministry,” he said of building projects.
 
Father Chris Micale
Before his ordination, Father Christopher Micale worked in occupational therapy and mental health counseling and as administrator of recruiting for Dartmouth College football. 
 
While at Dartmouth he had a reawakening to the Catholic faith and was asked to consider the possibility of a priestly vocation by his parish priest and another parishioner. “I think I was becoming increasingly unfulfilled over the years with my work experience, and when I was confronted with this possibility, I began to see that the work I had done up to that point was in preparation for serving the Church in a more formal way,” he said.
 
He had been on his own, working and living independently, so living in a house of formation with about 70 other men, praying and sharing meals together would be quite a change. “Then returning to a rigorous academic program after being out of school for years was also quite a challenge,” he said. “This was six-year commitment, a frightening thing for someone who was entering middle age at the time.”
 
He managed the change through prayer and a strong commitment that God had asked him to do this. 
 
Now administrator of St. Thomas Church in Underhill Center and St. Mary of the Assumption in Cambridge, Father Micale’s pre-seminary work required good interpersonal skills and the ability to analyze and integrate through observation of human behavior both physically and psychologically. “The positions I held over the years gave me an understanding of the emotional and physical needs of the human person, his or her development and function,” he said. “This was a perfect foundation for the spiritual work God would ask of me as a priest.”
 
Also, his office administration background was helpful in running a parish. “You start with God's vision and then through the organizational and interpersonal skills the priest can follow through on what Christ wants for His people at the local parish,” he said.  “Every parish has its own identity and its own history within the greater culture. It's a balance in which the priest must express the love of God to the parish and local community especially when difficult decisions must be made.”
 
 
Father Lance Harlow
Father Lance Harlow was a radiologic technologist (X-ray technologist) when his vocation to the priesthood emerged. “God was calling me from a profession to a vocation,” said the rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral parishes in Burlington. “Generally speaking, a profession is a work one does as a means to fulfill a greater good or lifestyle,” he said, adding that his career as an X-ray technologist was a beautiful profession, and taking care of the sick is a noble end in itself, but my life was empty outside of work.”
 
A vocation, he continued, fulfills the fundamental need a person has for meaning and purpose and appeals irrevocably to the very core of one’s nature, talents and aspirations. “As a calling from God, a vocation enables one to be fulfilled in the will of God which leads one to a recognition of something far greater than happiness; it leads one to peace.”
 
The discernment process from his profession to his vocation was the most difficult
decision he has ever made because he enjoyed my colleagues and worked hard in his profession. “I had to abandon both in an act of faith guided only by the restless search to hear God’s voice.”
 
It took a year of vocational discernment with his pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Windsor.
 
He was the first priest ordained in Vermont by Bishop Kenneth A. Angell.
 
Apart from the changes that occur with maturation over time, Father Harlow said that the most significant change in his life since my professional days has been a marked sense of “gravitas,” feeing the weight of the world. “As an X-ray technologist, I saw a lot of sickness and suffering, but it was within the controlled environment of a radiology exam room or hospital room. As a priest, I confront human suffering on a daily basis, and people look to me to take it away. That is weight.”

--Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan

'Extern' priests serving in Vermont

There was a time when the Diocese of Burlington sent priests to serve in missions in the developing world with groups including Maryknoll and The Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle.
 
But as the clergy shortage became more acute in Vermont, parishes here began to welcome more and more priests who were born outside the United States; in effect roles were reversed and Vermont became “mission territory.”
 
Of the 74 priests in full-time ministry in Vermont, there are currently 22 “extern” priests serving here with permission of their home bishop or religious order.
 
The extern priests serve at 41 churches and the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
 
“Without their assistance, we would not be able to provide pastoral coverage to a large number of churches,” said Msgr. John McDermott, vicar general for the Diocese of Burlington. “Their presence is essential at this time in the life of the Diocese.”
 
Father Romanus Igweonu was ordained for the Diocese of Abakaliki in his native Nigeria and served there as a parochial vicar, pastor, teacher, principal and chaplain before coming to the United States to study in 2004, earning advanced degrees in education. An educational specialist, he worked in special education in Pittsburg before then-Burlington Bishop Salvatore R. Matano invited him to serve in the Diocese of Burlington.
 
Though he also looked into educational positions, Father Igweonu chose to come to Vermont “because my first vocation is as a priest; I have to pay homage to the Church.” Education, he said, is his “second career.”
 
He arrived in Vermont in 2006 and served churches in Fairfax, Milton, Ludlow and Proctorsville before his current assignment as administrator of St. Bridget and St. Stanislaus Kostka churches in West Rutland and St. Dominic in Proctor. 
 
“When I came to Burlington, I met life. I met love. I met brotherliness and unity and acceptance,” he said. “I came as a missionary to Vermont, but I feel one with the presbyterate of Vermont,” which makes him feel more of a diocesan priest than a missionary. “As imperfect as I am, they treat me as a brother.”
 
The growing numbers of African-born clergy and religious ministering in the United States are at the vanguard of an important moment in both the U.S. and worldwide Catholic Church, said Jesuit Father Allan Deck, a teacher of theology and Latino studies at Loyola Maryknoll University in Los Angeles.
 
"The Church is growing in Asia, in Latin America and most especially in Africa," he said. "So at this moment in time and as we move into the future, the life of the universal Church, the leadership of the universal Church -- and all the hard work that we need to do to evangelize -- more and more has to be assumed by up-and-coming groups, and one of those groups is the Catholic faithful of the various countries of Africa.”
 
Father Deck served from 2008 to 2012 as the first executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
 
The priest called the influx of foreign-born ministers "a globalized priesthood, a globalized religious."
 
Father Maria Lazar, pastor of St. Charles Parish in Bellows Falls, was ordained a priest of the Heralds of Good News order. In his native India he was a parochial vicar, pastor and Catholic school administrator.
 
“One fine morning my superior [in the religious order] called me and said to prepare to go to Vermont,” he recalled. “Vermont was not on the map according to me back then,” he added with a smile.
 
But he arrived in Vermont in 2009 with another member of his order. “I didn’t know anything of Vermont,” he said. “I had no idea about the climate, the culture or the people.”
 
And though he thought he could speak English, he realized he did not speak it fluently. In fact, at first “it was not distinguishable,” he said.
 
Acclimating to a new place can be a challenge for a missionary priest, but Father Lazar did not balk; the object of his order is to train and supply priests where they are needed. “I’m a minister to the people. I cannot be hiding in a room,” he said, noting that in seminary he was told he could be sent “anywhere” so he would have to “bloom where you are planted.”
 
He has served churches in St. Albans, Barre and Rutland.
 
Asked if there is a priest shortage in his home diocese, Father Igweonu said, “yes and no.” Many parishes still need pastors because of an expansion program, so though there are many young men going to the seminary, “there are not enough priests because of the expansion,” he said. “No amount of priests is enough because the Church is growing in Africa.”
 
His plans to stay depend on the wishes of his home bishop and the bishop of Burlington. “I see my life as a priest anywhere I’m called to serve,” he said.
 
Father Lazar is committed to the Diocese of Burlington for 10 years, and when that is complete, he would like to go home to India, but he will, in obedience, go where he is needed. “I said ‘yes’ to God when I entered the seminary and when I was ordained. I should continue to [say ‘yes’] until my last breath.”
 
Father Julian Asucan, pastor of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier at North American Martyrs Church in Marshfield, was ordained in 2000 for the Diocese of Talibon in the Philippines where he assisted the bishop and was a parochial vicar and pastor before coming to Vermont in 2008 after learning the Diocese of Burlington needed priests.
 
“I wanted the experience of knowing what was beyond the borders of my country and to know the universal Church,” he said. “What we do there is the same thing we do here – celebrate the sacraments.”
 
He has served parishes in Bradford, Hardwick, Fairfax, Milton and Colchester.
 
He never thought of the United States as “mission territory,” but he understands the need now because of fewer American-born priests.
 
“For the Church to continue to exist, you have to have your own priests in the Diocese,” he said. “What if other Dioceses [and religious orders] did not send their priests?”
 
Father Lazar hopes that he will inspire young Vermont men to heed the call to priesthood. “Mission priests cannot stay here forever,” he said. “Mission priests are coming and serving and then they go to different places. Promoting local vocations is the only solution [to the clergy shortage], something every [Catholic] should work on.”
 
--Catholic News Service contributed to this story.
 
--Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Fostering a 'Culture of Vocations'

There is no doubt of the importance of the priesthood, consecrated religious life and sacramental marriage in the Church, but to foster and build these vocations, there must be a culture of vocations in each parish.
 
That was the message Rhonda Gruenewald, author of “Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry,” brought to a daylong workshop on the topic at St. Anthony Church in White River Junction Nov. 4.
 
The aim of her book — and of her presentations — is to inspire laypersons beginning or reviving a vocation ministry or committee and provide tested activities to bring about a culture of vocations in their parish.
 
Each of the 40 participants in the workshop at St. Anthony’s received a copy of the book, which gives background and ideas for a vocations ministry like a family Holy Hour for vocations, Eucharistic adoration for vocations, an altar server lunch with priests, a fish fry for vocations, seminarian trading cards, recognition of married couples at Mass and panel discussions.
 
“We are trying to create an environment where young people can hear and answer God’s call” to priesthood, consecrated religious life or sacramental marriage, Gruenewald said in her presentation entitled “Forming a Vocation-Friendly Parish.”
 
With some 3,500 parishes in the United States without a resident pastor, the number of religious sisters diminishing in many orders and many young people not considering marriage in the Church an option, this is a “clarion call to do something,” Gruenewald emphasized.
 
Though there is an uptick in the number of seminarians in some dioceses and some religious orders are receiving more new members, “we need an entity in every parish to pray and promote vocations,” she said. “We know God is calling. We have a listening problem.”
 
Members of vocations ministries must “till the soil” by making parishioners and visitors aware of vocation options and comfortable discerning God’s call for them, she continued.
 
Some suggestions: place a poster of seminarians in a prominent place in the church, include prayers for an increase in vocations in the Prayers of the Faithful at each Mass and make vocation-related materials available in parish book racks.
 
And to reach young people, it is important to reach families. “We need to equip families to talk about vocations,” Gruenewald said. “We need to get to work in age-appropriate ways when families are bringing their children to the parish.”
 
In addition to the ideas presented in her book, she provides a plethora of information on vocations ministry at vocationsministry.com.
 
Rita Baglini of Our Lady of the Snows Church in Waitsfield attended the workshop. “We have to promote vocations,” she said. “This is our faith.”
 
Even in a church like hers where many worshippers are vacationers, a culture of vocations is important so visitors can be inspired to listen to God’s call.
 
Fostering this culture of vocations can be a challenge especially in aging parishes, in the least religious state and in communities where many young people leave to find opportunities, she said.
 
But all parishes — regardless of the number of young parishioners — can be involved in vocations ministry at least with a prayer component. “Do something!” Gruenewald said, saying youth are attracted to the truth, to authentic witness for Christ and to the example of it being lived boldly.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne thanked participants for their interest in vocations ministry and said he hoped the workshop would “bear [the] fruit” of vocations in their parishes.
 
Father Jon Schnobrich, full-time vocations director for the Diocese of Burlington, offered workshop participants an overview of vocation work in the Diocese including the Totus Tuus summer programs that cultivate a culture of vocations directly and indirectly, his visits to parishes throughout the state to preach about vocations, his visits to Catholic schools, Masses at eldercare homes at which he encourages residents to pray for vocations and summer seminarian assignments in parishes where they are “joyful witnesses” to young parishioners.
 
Children can be inspired to a vocation at any age, Gruenewald said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do to affect vocations in God’s time. We just have to keep tilling the soil.”
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Vietnamese seminary candidates

Three candidates for the seminary for the Diocese of Burlington from Vietnam arrived in Vermont in May and spent the summer studying English at Boston University –- where they will study for two more semesters -– as they prepare for seminary studies, ordination and service to the Catholic community of Vermont.
 
Giang Nu, 24, Thang Nguyen, 24, and Luan Tran, 31, answered what they consider to be God’s call to become missionary priests in Vermont.
 
“I was in the seminary in Vietnam and wanted to become a missionary. I prayed very much,” Nu said.
 
The three men made their way to Vermont with the help of a Boston Vietnamese Jesuit priest, Father Bao Nguyen, who works to raise funds for Vietnamese religious sisters, seminarians and priests to be trained in the United States.
 
Funds for their living expenses and education also come from the Vocations Office of the Diocese of Burlington and endowments.
 
There is a great need for evangelization, outreach and engagement of the culture to share the joy of the Gospel, said Father Jon Schnobrich, vocations director for the Diocese. “These men bring that witness of faith. They are following God’s will for their life.”
 
The presence of the men from Vietnam “helps us realize there is a universal dimension of the Church,” he continued. “We have a family of faith in all parts of the world.”
 
Nguyen was in the seminary in Vietnam when he felt a calling from God pushing him to go to the United States “to do His will,” he said.
 
Tran, also a seminarian in Vietnam, said his bishop asked him to consider becoming a missionary priest. “I’m very happy because I decided to come,” the former lawyer said. “We will do our best.”
 
The men agree that it was God who brought them here, and all are happy to be here. They stay with host families when not in school and said people have been friendly and welcoming.
 
Nu, a seminarian in Vietnam, said with a laugh that he wants to see snow in Vermont.
 
Though they miss family and friends and have found it challenging to learn English, they don’t worry. “Here we have help from the bishop [Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne], Father Jon and many people,” Tran said. “And God is helping us.”
 
When Jesus called His disciples, He said, “Come, follow me.” To that, Tran added that God called the three men from Vietnam to “follow me to Vermont.”
 
While studying at Boston University, they live at St. John Seminary in Brighton.
 
Considering his call to be a missionary priest, Tran described it as being born in one place and going to another to tell people about God. “The most important thing is you want to bring happiness to everyone. You want to make others happy. My father told me if you want to bring happiness to others, you have to be happy.”
 
To bring happiness to others, he said, priests celebrate the Mass, pray and listen, and that is what he intends to do.
 
For Nu, being a missionary priest also includes helping people – especially the poor – and being charitable.
 
“Being a priest is being a servant,” Nguyen said. “God is in the midst of everyone. I will serve God and everyone.”
 
Father Schnobrich said it is anticipated that the three men will enter the seminary in the fall of 2018 and be ordained in 2023 and incardinated for service in the Diocese of Burlington.
 
They have met members of the Vietnamese community in Vermont, now served by a priest from Montreal.
 
The addition of these men to the ranks of the diocesan priesthood is especially welcome at a time when the Diocese is facing a shortage of clergy and entering a synod to plan for the future.
 
Their arrival – with the assistance of Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy during the immigration process – “is incredibly hopeful for us,” Father Schnobrich said. “It’s exciting. … We feel incredibly blessed.”
 
He said he is inspired by the men’s faith and courage and praised their host families for giving them the sense that this is now their home.
 
“Sometimes my mother and father call me and are sad” because they miss him, Nu said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t worry. The Lord wants me to be here.’”
 
-- Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Vocation in the Church: Universal and Primary

The first time I had a thought about a vocation I was a child. My sisters and I would play Mass in our home. Always on the search for the perfectly rounded Lay's potato chip for the host, we enjoyed the idea of bringing something so sacred into something so familiar. 

National Vocation Awareness Week begins Nov. 5 and continues throughout the week as a way to teach and encourage our young people about the gift and variety of different vocations in the Church. This week we celebrate two aspects of Vocation in the Church: the Universal and the Primary. The universal call from God to each and every one of us is that we conform our lives to that of God’s Son, Jesus. Through our communion with Him we are sanctified, meaning we are made saints. The primary, or what is commonly referred to as "the big V vocation" in one’s life, is how we live that universal call to holiness. 

By Baptism we are consecrated to God, set apart for God’s purposes. As God’s life in us is strengthened by confirmation and nourished by the Eucharist and Reconciliation, we prayerfully begin to discern our state in life: ordained life, consecrated life or the life of the laity.

In the ordained state of life, a man may hear the Lord calling him to serve the Church as a deacon, priest or bishop. Each of these offices has particular graces and particular responsibilities for the building up of God’s holy people.

If someone is drawn to consecrated life, he or she may consider several different ways that God may be calling: as a consecrated virgin living in the world; to apostolic religious life (sister or friar); as a member of a secular institute or a contemplative institute; as a diocesan hermit; or as part of a monastic community as a monk or a nun.

In the lay state, a person discerns between married life and dedicated single life.
 
Although the focus of this week in our parishes and schools may highlight one vocation or another, the goal is to help raise awareness about the various possibilities within the Church for persons to explore how the Lord is asking them to make a gift of their lives and a gift of their love to others. 

Together, let us build a culture of vocations where our youth are inspired by the idea of the sacred coming close to them and in which the guiding principle for their lives becomes this prayer of their hearts, “God, help me to want what you want for my life.”

Check out a video featuring the priests of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington responding to the question, “What do you love most about being a priest?”
 
For more information and resources on National Vocation Awareness Week, visit: Vianney Vocations and the U.S. Conference o Catholic Bishops.
---------------------
Father Jon Schnobrich is the director of vocations for the Diocese of Burlington.

This article was first published in the Nov. 4-10, 2017, issue of
The Inland See bulletin.
 
  • Published in Nation

Promoting parish vocation ministry

Rhonda Gruenewald, a vocation promoter and author of “Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry,” will be in Vermont to present a day-long workshop open to all who want to share in this mission to promote vocations in their parishes, but specifically aimed at directors of religious education, catechists and parents. 
 
The workshop will take place at St. Anthony Parish Hall in White River Junction on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with the option of attending the vigil Mass at 4. 
 
“Following the lead of our local shepherd, Bishop [Christopher] Coyne, and in union with the universal shepherd, Pope Francis -- who called for a Synod this fall to focus on ‘Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment’ -- the Vocation Office is seeking to more intentionally engage young people in Vermont,” explained Father Jon Schnobrich, vocations director for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
Gruenewald, of Houston, also will speak to the priests of the Diocese of Burlington at the annual priest gathering in September. 
 
“Her book proposes a way to build a culture of vocations in a Diocese, beginning at the parish level,” Father Schnobrich said. “Because of the increasing demands on priests, Rhonda's vision seeks to engage the laity in the mission of promoting vocations in a way that relieves a pastor/priest from the tasks of organizing, planning and administrating different vocation events and activities in the parish.”
 
The aim of her book is to inspire laypersons beginning or reviving a vocation ministry or committee and provide tested activities to bring about a culture of vocations in their parish.
 
To find out more about this ministry, go to vocationministry.com.
 
There is no cost to attend the White River Junction workshop, but those who want to attend are asked to RSVP by Oct. 28 to Mallorie Gerwitz in the Vocation Office (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 802-658-6110 ext. 1334).
 
  • Published in Diocesan
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